DIY Egg Carton Seed Tray: How To Germinate Seeds In Egg Cartons
By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Seedstarting can take a lot of time and resources. But if you look around yourhouse you may just find some materials you won’t need to buy to get your plantsstarted. You can easily and inexpensively germinate seeds in egg cartons thatyou were just going to throw out.
Why Use Egg Cartons for Seeds?
There are a few great reasons to start using egg cartons foryour starting seeds, especially if you are just starting out gardening or arestarting plants from seeds for the first time. This is a great option. Here’swhy:
- An egg carton seed tray is so cheap it’s free. Gardening can be expensive at times, so any way you can trim some costs helps.
- Reusing materials is good for the environment. You were only going to throw it away, so why not find a new use for your egg cartons?
- Egg cartons are small, already compartmentalized, and easy to handle and use.
- The shape of an egg carton makes it easy to situate on a sunny windowsill.
- Egg cartons are flexible seed starting containers. You can use the whole thing or easily cut it apart for smaller containers.
- Depending on the type of carton, you may be able to put it right in the ground with the seedling and let it decompose in the soil.
- You can write directly on the egg carton to keep your seeds organized.
How to Start Seeds in Egg Cartons
First, start collecting egg cartons. Depending on how manyseeds you are starting, you may need to plan well ahead to save enough cartons.If you don’t have enough and are ready to start, ask around and save some ofyour neighbors’ egg cartons from the garbage.
When starting seeds in an egg carton, you still need toconsider drainage. An easy solution is to cut off the container lid and put itunder the bottom of the carton. Poke holes in the bottom of each egg cup andany moisture will drain out and into the lid underneath.
Fill each egg cup with potting soil and place seeds in tothe appropriate depth. Water the container to get the soil moist but notsoaking.
To keep it warm as the seeds germinate, simply put thecarton in a plastic vegetable bag form the grocery store—another good way toreuse materials. Once they sprout, you can remove the plastic and set yourcontainer in a sunny, warm spot until they are ready to be planted outside.
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Starting Seeds in Egg Cartons
My son has kept a sunflower seed he found in his room for months in hope of planting it in the ground.
He has gotten his love of growing this from his mom, I guess.
Every January the false spring of January here in SoCal teases me for what gardening I could be doing. This year, with no chance of a freeze in sight, we are off to a start just a little bit early to cash in on the early growing season.
So, along with a whole packet of fresh new sunflower seeds being guarded carefully by my four-year-old ready for this weekend, we started our annual vegetable garden on Monday by starting lettuce from seeds- in an egg carton.
To start seeds in an egg carton you need:
– Toothpick or other sharp object
Cut off the lid and flap of the egg carton and recycle or reuse in another way.
Take a toothpick and poke holes in each section of the carton, making drainage holes for the plants.
Fill the sections most of the way full with potting soil. Give it a pat to even out the lumps.
Poke a small hole in each section of dirt with a little finger and put in a couple seeds in each of the holes.
Cover the tops with more soil and tuck everyone in nice and gently.
Water your little egg carton garden. This will help remove any air pockets and give thirsty seeds a drink.
Keep cartons inside in a warm spot by a window or outside if you are also experiencing a very warm winter.
In a couple weeks you will have seedlings! Be sure you are watering every one to two days- you don’t want the soil to completely dry out and hurt your tender little seedlings. Thin out seedlings as needed.
After there is no more chance of a frost, you can take the plants out of the container for planting or cut apart the paper carton and the plant and its little ‘pot' in the ground – the paper will disintegrate in the soil.
Which do you prefer- starting from seeds or starting with plants?
- If you want to grow plants from seed, you'll get a jump on the growing season and save lots of time by starting now.
- Using seeds gives you a lot of variety. You can choose from heirloom seeds, rare or hard-to-find varieties, or even just seeds from a tasty veggie that you got from the grocery store.
- Your patience can also save you money - growing seeds is very economical.
Step One– Cut the top off of the egg carton and discard (compost!). Cut down the center, creating two pieces with six cups each. You can choose to leave the “cups” together at this point, or you can cut each cup so they’re separate. That’s the option we chose.
You’ll then want to use a sharpie to write on the outside of each cup what will be growing inside. Better yet, let your child who is learning writing skills do this. It’s super easy to copy the flower name from the seed packet right onto the cup, and it’s great writing practice!
Step Two: Let your little helpers begin to fill each egg carton seed cup with soil. They can do this by scooping with the cup itself (dirtier) or with a spoon (cleaner). Putting newspaper down makes clean up a cinch, so I highly recommend this!
Step Three– Have your little helpers place two or three seeds in each cup and lightly cover with soil. This is a great time to talk to your kids about how beautiful and wonderful things can start with just a tiny seed!
It’s also a great time to read The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle, even if your kids are a bit older, they’ll still love it, and they can try to mimic Carle’s artwork.
Step Four- Place cups in a low container and water those babies! I did this at first with a water bottle, so I didn’t wash the seeds away. I also placed some water in the bottom of the dish itself, so the egg cartons would soak it up.
This helps to “water” the seeds from the ground up. Be sure to put your seed cartons in a sunny spot in the house, and keep them moist, but not soaking wet.
Covering Seed Cups
For more of a greenhouse environment, you can cover your tray with the egg carton seed cups inside with saran wrap, or an equivalent wrap. This will help trap in moisture, and create a small greenhouse environment.
I find this cuts down on how often I need to water. Keeping the container near a warm spot (vent) or in a sunny place will also allow your seeds to germinate more quickly.
You can also choose to store your seed cups in an old clamshell salad container. This created a perfect greenhouse environment for your growing seeds!
How long until seeds germinate?
Depending on what type of seeds you’re growing, you should see little seedlings popping through in a week or so. We grew marigolds, zinnias, and petunias, all things I love to have in the garden or in our window boxes.
The zinnias and marigolds came up pretty quickly, but we have to wait two weeks for the petunias… talk about an exercise in patience! I almost threw them out thinking they were duds. Don’t be like me have patience… I hear it’s a virtue.
Remember, as your plants grow and you consider taking them outside to plant. You want to harden them off first (get them accustomed to the outside temperature). Read my full guide on how to harden off seedlings for detailed information.
You’ll do this by letting them sit outside during the day for a few days, and bringing them in at night. Then you should be able to safely plant them in your garden or container, like this DIY Self-Watering Planter!
What kind of seeds will you plant in your egg carton seed cups? I’d love to know what your kids think of this activity! Happy Gardening!
Egg Carton Seed Storage Box
This is a great way to store seeds and reuse egg cartons too. The carton provides a dark moisture free environment for the seeds which will help to extend their shelf life.
The lid of the carton can be painted to give it an attractive appearance. You don’t need to be Van Gough – just have fun with it. Painting is relaxing and a great way to improve our mental health.
Use another egg carton to mix your paints. When you’re finished all you have to do is close the lid and discard making cleaning up easy.
I store my seeds in a plastic bag securing the top to create an airtight seal. Each bag is then placed in a cell of the egg carton.
Write the name of the seed on the edge of each cell to make them easier to find. Close the lid then store in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
Looking for a set of acrylic paints? Try these from Amazon. (Paid link)
To Save or Print this guide on reusing egg cartons in the garden, click the button below for the PDF File.
For more creative inspiration try these Craft Ideas.
Looking for more money saving ideas? Try this guide to the quickest way to reheat food, baking soda uses for the home or this free Homesteading guide.
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